A Prince William County man has been charged with credit card fraud and conspiracy to commit murder in connection with an alleged scheme to fake his death, assume the identity of a man he planned to kill and leave for South America with $1 million stolen from credit cards, authorities said yesterday.

The arrest came after an investigation revealed an alleged elaborate scheme that involves state and federal charges, law enforcement officials said. Three men are charged in connection with the case.

John Ramzi Azat, 30, of Dumfries, was arrested by Prince William police two weeks ago and charged with one count each of conspiracy to commit murder, burglary and grand larceny. He was released on $50,000 bail, court officials said.

Azat, a Jordanian national who owned Tyson's Olympia Fitness Center in Vienna, was charged in November with credit card fraud by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Nabeel "Billy" Rebhi Zarou, 28, of Laurel, was charged last week in Prince William with conspiracy to commit murder and receiving stolen property. He is free on $5,000 bail.

According to law enforcement sources, Azat is suspected of plotting to kill Woodbridge resident Ismael Habib, 20, a Syrian national living illegally in the United States.

During the federal investigation of Azat's alleged credit card fraud, court records show, an informer told Secret Service agents that Azat and Zarou planned to kill Habib, place the body in Azat's red Toyota truck and set the truck on fire until the body burned beyond recognition. Police believe that Azat was planning to fake his death by placing his identification on the body, sources said.

The informer said Azat had taken out a $250,000 life insurance policy recently to "provide for his wife and family after his staged death," according to the affidavit.

Habib, a restaurant employee of a friend of Azat's, allegedly was chosen because Azat believed it would have been difficult for authorities to learn his identity, said Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert. "He was an illegal {resident} and apparently had no family ties or other means by which he could have been traced," he said.

Azat is charged with grand larceny and burglary for a break-in at Habib's apartment in November. Zarou is charged with receiving stolen property in the same incident. According to the affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, the informer told Secret Service special agent John G. Kirkwood that the burglary was staged to steal some of Habib's belongings, including his passport, which would be used by Azat to leave the country.

The burglary at Habib's home occurred two days before Azat was arrested by federal agents on the credit card fraud charge.

That case came to the attention of federal investigators when officials at Sovran Bank, where the account of Tyson's Olympia Fitness Center was kept, became suspicious when $769,553 was deposited electronically over three days.

Azat also deposited checks for $150,000, $175,000 and $176,500 into his personal accounts at two Maryland banks, saying he had made the money by selling his fitness club, court records show.

According to the records, Azat illegally obtained money from credit cards by using an electronic device commonly used by businesses to charge purchases on accounts without using the card. Azat had signed an agreement with Sovran Bank allowing him to convert credit card receipts into cash deposits in February 1990, the records said.

In the alleged scheme, investigators said, Azat purchased stolen credit card numbers from a Baltimore man. Azat then charged the card owners for services at his fitness club that they never received.

Gerald Morrealee pleaded guilty last month to credit card fraud for selling the credit card numbers to Azat, said Steve Iannucci, supervisor of the Secret Service fraud division. He faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced Feb. 8.

If convicted of credit card fraud, Azat faces up to 10 years in prison and fines of more than $1.5 million. He faces a maximum of 50 years in prison if convicted of burglary, grand larceny and conspiracy to commit murder. Zarou faces up to 30 years if convicted.